New Malware Targeting Apple Devices

November 19, 2014 by admin  
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Palo Alto Networks Inc  has uncovered a new group of malware that can infect Apple Inc’s  desktop and mobile operating systems, underscoring the increasing sophistication of attacks on iPhones and Mac computers.

The “WireLurker” malware can install third-party applications on regular, non-jailbroken iOS devices and hop from infected Macs onto iPhones through USB connector-cables, said Ryan Olson, intelligence director for the company’s Unit 42 division.

Palo Alto Networks said on Wednesday it had seen indications that the attackers were Chinese. The malware originated from a Chinese third-party apps store and appeared to have mostly affected users within the country.

The malware spread through infected apps uploaded to the apps store, that were in turn downloaded onto Mac computers. According to the company, more than 400 such infected apps had been downloaded over 350,000 times so far.

It’s unclear what the objective of the attacks was. There is no evidence that the attackers had made off with anything more sensitive than messaging IDs and contacts from users’ address books, Olson added.

But “they could just as easily take your Apple ID or do something else that’s bad news,” he said in an interview.

Apple, which Olson said was notified a couple weeks ago, did not respond to requests for comment.

Once WireLurker gets on an iPhone, it can go on to infect existing apps on the device, somewhat akin to how a traditional virus infects computer software programs. Olson said it was the first time he had seen it in action. “It’s the first time we’ve seen anyone doing it in the wild,” he added.

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Amazon Tops Apple

November 13, 2014 by admin  
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A mere five months after Apple snatched J.D. Power’s tablet satisfaction award away from Samsung, it has lost it to up-and-coming Amazon.

Apple’s iPad finished in second place in the latest satisfaction survey conducted by J.D. Power and Associates, with a score of 824 out of a possible 1,000. For the first time, Amazon took first place, scoring 827.

Samsung came in at 821 for third, while Asus and Acer filled out the first five, but those stragglers’ scores were under the category average.

J.D. Power’s satisfaction score included five separate measurements for performance, ease of operation, features, styling and design, and cost, with each accounting for different percentages of the final number. Performance, for example, counted as 28% of the total; cost for 11%.

Apple received high scores in performance and styling and design, while Amazon performed best in ease of operation and cost, said Kirk Parsons, senior director of telecommunications services at J.D. Power.

“Within the tablet segment, there’s a balance of cost and value, and for this period, Amazon was at the equilibrium,” said Parsons. “For the money, [Amazon tablets] do what buyers need them to do. And the Mayday feature really helped them in ease of operation.”

Mayday is a feature on Amazon’s higher-end tablets that lets customers video chat with support representatives using the device.

Parsons called out Amazon’s Fire HDX, which launched in October 2013 in a 7-in. size and a month later in an 8.9-in. format, for driving the brand’s scores. Amazon now sells the 7-in. Fire HDX for $179; the 8.9-in. model starts at $379. “The new Fire HDX did really, really well” in the survey, Parsons noted.

J.D. Power polled nearly 2,700 U.S. tablet owners who had had their current devices for less than a year. The survey period ran from March to August.

The last time J.D. Power published tablet customer satisfaction scores, Amazon placed fourth. Its jump to first was a small surprise, said Parsons. “I figured [Amazon's] scores would improve, but I didn’t think they’d take the top spot,” he admitted.

Price is increasingly important to satisfaction, said Parson, as costs fall and capabilities climb across the board, making it more difficult for premium-priced tablets like Apple’s iPad, to retain their polled positions. On average, tablet customers now spend $345 on their tablets, $48 less than in April 2013, a decline of 12%.

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nVidia Finally Goes 20nm

October 3, 2014 by admin  
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For much of the year we were under the impression that the second generation Maxwell will end up as a 20nm chip.

First-generation Maxwell ended up being branded as Geforce GTX 750 and GTX 750 TI and the second generation Maxwell launched a few days ago as the GTX 980 and Geforce GTX 970, with both cards based on the 28nm GM204 GPU.

This is actually quite good news as it turns out that Nvidia managed to optimize power and performance of the chip and make it one of the most efficient chips manufactured in 28nm.

Nvidia 20nm chips coming in 2015

Still, people keep asking about the transition to 20nm and it turns out that the first 20nm chip from Nvidia in 20nm will be a mobile SoC.

The first Nvidia 20nm chip will be a mobile part, most likely Erista a successor of Parker (Tegra K1).

Our sources didn’t mention the exact codename, but it turns out that Nvidia wants to launch a mobile chip first and then it plans to expand into 20nm with graphics.

Unfortunately we don’t have any specifics to report.

AMD 20nm SoC in 2015

AMD is doing the same thing as its first 20nm chip, codenamed Nolan, is an entry level APU targeting tablet and detachable markets.

There is a strong possibility that Apple and Qualcomm simply bought a lot of 20nm capacity for their mobile modem chips and what was left was simply too expensive to make economic sense for big GPUs.
20nm will drive the voltage down while it will allow higher clocks, more transistors per square millimeter and it will overall enable better chips.

Just remember Nvidia world’s first quad-core Tegra 3 in 40nm was rather hot and making a quad core in 28nm enabled higher performance and significantly better battery life. The same was true of other mobile chips of the era.

We expect similar leap from going down to 20nm in 2015 and Erista might be the first chip to make it to 20nm. A Maxwell derived architecture 20nm will deliver even more efficiency. Needless to say AMD plans to launch 20nm GPUs next year as well.

It looks like Nvidia’s 16nm FinFET Parker processor, based on the Denver CPU architecture and Maxwell graphics won’t appear before 2016.

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Can Lenovo Succeed With Tablets?

July 31, 2014 by admin  
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Lenovo on Friday said it would continue selling sub-10-in. Windows tablets in the U.S., backing away from statements it made the day before, when it said it was pulling the ThinkPad 8 from the North American market and had discontinued offering a model of the Miix 2.

“We will continue to bring new Windows devices to market across different screen sizes, including a new 8-inch tablet and 10-inch tablet coming this holiday,” Lenovo said in a press release published on its website Friday.

“Our model mix changes as per customer demand, and although we are no longer selling ThinkPad 8 in the U.S., and we have sold out of Miix 8-inch, we are not getting out of the small-screen Windows tablet business as was reported by the media (emphasis in original),” the statement continued.

On Thursday, the IDG News Service — like Computerworld, owned and operated by IDG – reported the withdrawal of the ThinkPad 8 and the 8-in. Miix from the U.S. market. The ThinkPad 8 had debuted in January at prices starting at $449, and the similarly-sized Miix had launched in October 2013.

Lenovo told IDG News that it was diverting remaining stocks of the ThinkPad 8 to other countries, including Brazil, China, and Japan, where demand was stronger for smaller Windows 8.1-powered tablets.

The China-based company, which has made impressive gains in the global market — it was the world’s largest personal computer seller during the second quarter, ahead of Hewlett-Packard and Dell, according to IDC — did not say exactly when it would return with an 8-in. device. If it begins selling the unnamed device in October, typical of OEMs that seed the channel then for the holiday sales season, it will have been absent from the market for two or more months.

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ARM Launches Juno

July 18, 2014 by admin  
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ARM has announced two programs to assist Android’s ascent into the 64-bit architecture market.

The first of those is Linaro, a port of the Android Open Source Project to the 64-bit ARMv8-A architecture. ARM said the port was done on a development board codenamed “Juno”, which is the second initiative to help Android reach the 64-bit market.

The Juno hardware development platform includes a system on chip (SoC) powered by a quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU and dual-core ARM Cortex-A57 CPU in an ARM big.little processing configuration.

Juno is said to be an “open, vendor neutral ARMv8 development platform” that will also feature an ARM Mali-T624 graphics processor.

Alongside the news of the 64-bit initiatives, ARM also announced that Actions Semiconductor of China signed a license agreement for the 64-bit ARM Cortex-A50 processor family.

“Actions provides SoC solutions for portable consumer electronics,” ARM said. “With this IP license, Actions will develop 64-bit SoC solutions targeting the tablet and over-the-counter (OTT) set top box markets.”

The announcements from ARM come at an appropriate time, as it was only last week that Google announced the latest version of its Android mobile operating system, Android L, which comes with support for 64-bit processors. ARM’s latest developments mean that Android developers are likely to take advantage of them in the push to take Android to the 64-bit market.

Despite speculation that it would launch as Android 5.0 Lollipop, Google outed its next software iteration on Wednesday last week as simply Android L, touting the oddly-named iteration as “the largest update to the operating system yet”.

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Microsoft’s Killswitch Incoming

July 1, 2014 by admin  
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Responding to mounting  pressure, Google and Microsoft will follow Apple in adding an anti-theft “kill switch” to their smartphone operating systems.

The commitment comes at a time when new data shows a dramatic drop in theft of Apple iPhones and iPads after the September 2013 introduction of iOS 7, which included a kill-switch function that allows stolen devices to be remotely locked and deleted so they become useless.

In New York, iPhone theft was down 19 percent in the first five months of this year, which is almost double the 10 percent drop in overall robberies seen in the city. Over the same period, thefts of Samsung devices — which did not include a kill switch until one was introduced on Verizon-only models in April — rose by over 40 percent.

In San Francisco, robberies of iPhones were 38 percent lower in the six months after the iOS 7 introduction versus the six months before, while in London thefts over the same period were down by 24 percent. In both cities, robberies of Samsung devices increased.

“These statistics validate what we always knew to be true, that a technological solution has the potential to end the victimization of wireless consumers everywhere,” San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon told IDG News Service.

Gascon and New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman have been leading a push to get smartphone vendors and telecom carriers to include kill switches in their products as a way to curb phone theft.

The joint work had early success with Apple but other carriers and phone makers dragged their feet. However, resistance to the idea appears to be dropping as several bills that mandate kill switches make their way through state legislatures and the U.S. Congress.

The bills demand a function that would enable a phone owner to remotely delete and disable a phone if stolen. The function could be disabled by consumers before a theft takes place if desired, but crucially new handsets would be supplied with it switched on by default.

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Intel And Oracle Team Up Again

June 24, 2014 by admin  
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Oracle has added systems to its enterprise-class x86 server line featuring elastic computing capabilities that dynamically adapt their configurations in response to workloads.

The Oracle Sun Server X4-4 and Sun Server X4-8 are four-socket and eight-socket systems designed for data centre workloads such as virtualisation, Oracle databases and scale-up enterprise applications.

However, the two servers are fitted with a unique variant of Intel’s Xeon E7 v2 processor family that combines the capabilities of three different Xeon processors into one.

Oracle said it worked with Intel to create this chip, the Xeon E7-8895 v2, which can dynamically switch its core count, clock frequency and power consumption without the need for a system level reboot.

This chip is the heart of the elastic computing capability of the Sun Server X4-4 and Sun Server X4-8, enabling them to adapt to the requirements of different workloads based on its runtime configuration.

It might be configured for transaction processing at a high clock speed for one hour, then switched to higher core counts for the next hour for higher throughput computing, according to Oracle.

“Through close collaboration with Intel, we are the first to announce servers based on the new Xeon E7-8895 v2 processors and the first with unique capabilities that allow customers to dynamically address different workloads in real time,” said Ali Alasti, senior vice president for hardware development at Oracle.

Enhancements have also been made to the system firmware and to Oracle’s Solaris, and Oracle Linux operating systems to support the elastic computing features.

Oracle also said the new systems have a modular design that allows the processors to be upgraded to future Xeon chips, while all the disks are hot-swappable, plus there is hot-pluggable I/O support for industry-standard low-profile PCI Express cards via a dual PCIe card carrier.

The servers also feature a “glueless” architecture that removes the need for a node controller. As node controllers typically change from one processor generation to the next because of modifications to inter-processor communication and coherency protocols, the elimination enables Oracle to offer a future-proof chassis that will support future processor releases from Intel, the firm said.

The Sun Server X4-8 is touted by Oracle as ideal for running its Oracle Database, which has just been updated with an in-memory processing option. It supports 120 processor cores with up to 6TB of memory in its 5U rack-mount chassis, plus up to 9.6TB of hard drive or 3.2TB of solid state drive (SSD) storage.

Meanwhile, the Sun Server X4-4 is said to be well suited for applications requiring large memory footprint virtual machines and running real-time analytics software.

It can be configured with two or four of the Xeon E7-8895 v2 processors, with up to 3TB of memory and 4.8TB of PCIe flash plus 2.4TB of SSDs or 7.2TB of hard drives.

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GPUs Down In Q1

June 5, 2014 by admin  
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According to Jon Peddie Research (JPR), shipments of discrete graphics cards were down in the first quarter of the year. This is in line with seasonal trends, as the market cools down after the holiday season.

The sequential drop was 6.7 percent, which was still better than the overall desktop PC market, which slumped 9 percent. However, on a year-to-year basis add-in-board (AIB) shipments were down 0.8 percent. PC sales were down 1.1 percent.
Nvidia still controls two thirds of the market

Total AIB shipments in Q1 were just 14 million units. AMD and Nvidia both saw their shipments decrease 6.6 percent, so their market share did not change much.

Nvidia controls an estimated 65 percent of the market, up from 64.2 percent last year. AMD’s market share in Q1 was 35 percent, down from 35.6 percent a year ago.

The overall volume remains weak and in the long run things could get even worse, as on-die integrated graphics have already taken a big toll on sales of entry level discrete cards. As integrated GPUs become even faster, they are likely to cannibalize the low end market even further.

JPR points out that the AIB market peaked in 1999, with 114 million units shipped. Last year saw only 65 million units and the stagnant trend is likely to continue this year.

It’s not all bad news for AIBs
Although the slump in discrete GPU shipments is hurting AMD and NV hardware partners, JPR offers a rather encouraging outlook.

It points out that graphics cards are one of the most powerful, essential and exciting components in the PC market today. PC gaming is hardly dead, in fact it is going through what can only be described as a small renaissance. PCs will offer 4K/UHD gaming years ahead of consoles and the Steam Machine concept is looking good, too.

The compute market is another driver, as JPR points out:

“The technology is entering into major new markets like supercomputers, remote workstations, and simulators almost on a daily basis. It would be little exaggeration to say that the AIB resembles the 800-pound gorilla in the room.”
The AIB market is quite a bit less colourful and eventful than it was back in the day, but at least AIBs still have a lot on their hands and they are trying to tap new markets.

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Samsung Makes Changes In Mobile

May 22, 2014 by admin  
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Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, the world’s biggest mobile phone manufacturer, has replaced the head of its mobile design team amid criticism of the latest Galaxy S smartphone.

Chang Dong-hoon offered to resign last week and will be replaced by Lee Min-hyouk, vice president for mobile design, a Samsung spokeswoman said on Thursday.

“The realignment will enable Chang to focus more on his role as head of the Design Strategy Team, the company’s corporate design center which is responsible for long-term design strategy across all of Samsung’s businesses, including Mobile Communications,” Samsung said in a statement.

Lee, 42, became Samsung’s youngest senior executive in 2010 for his role in designing the Galaxy series, a roaring success which unseated Apple Inc’s iPhone as king of the global smartphone market.

Samsung now sells two times more smartphones than Apple, largely thanks to the success of Galaxy range.

But the South Korean firm has also been battling patent litigation the world over, with Apple claiming Samsung copied the look and feel of the U.S. firm’s mobile products.

The Galaxy S5, which debuted globally last month, has received a lukewarm response from consumers due to its lack of eye-popping hardware innovations, while its plastic case design has been panned by some critics for looking cheap and made out of a conveyor belt. The Wall Street Journal said the gold-colored back cover on the S5 looked like a band-aid.

Chang, a former professor who studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, will continue to lead Samsung’s design center which overseas its overall design strategy.

Lee, who acquired the moniker of “Midas” for his golden touch with the Galaxy series, started out designing cars for Samsung’s failed auto joint venture with Renault in the 1990s.

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ARM To Focus On 64-bit SoC

May 15, 2014 by admin  
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ARM announced its first 64-bit cores a while ago and SoC makers have already rolled out several 64-bit designs. However, apart from Apple nobody has consumer oriented 64-bit ARM devices on the market just yet. They are slowly starting to show up and ARM says the transition to 64-bit parts is accelerating. However, the first wave of 64-bit ARM parts is not going after the high-end market.

Is 64-bit support on entry-level SoCs just a gimmick?

This trend raises a rather obvious question – are low end ARMv8 parts just a marketing gimmick, or do they really offer a significant performance gain? There is no straight answer at this point. It will depend on Google and chipmakers themselves, as well as phonemakers.

Qualcomm announced its first 64-bit part late last year. The Snapdragon 410 won’t turn many heads. It is going after $150 phones and it is based on Cortex A53 cores. It also has LTE, which makes it rather interesting.

MediaTek is taking a similar approach. Its quad-core MT6732 and octa-core MT6752 parts are Cortex A53 designs, too. Both sport LTE connectivity.

Qualcomm and MediaTek appear to be going after the same market – $100 to $150 phones with LTE and quad-core 64-bit stickers on the box. Marketers should like the idea, as they’re getting a few good buzzwords for entry-level gear.

However, we still don’t know much about their real-world performance. Don’t expect anything spectacular. The Cortex A53 is basically the 64-bit successor to the frugal Cortex A7. The A53 has a bit more cache, 40-bit physical addresses and it ends up a bit faster than the A7, but not by much. ARM says the A7 delivers 1.9DMIPS/MHz per core, while the A53 churns out 2.3DMIPS/MHz. That puts it in the ballpark of the good old Cortex A9. The first consumer oriented quad-core Cortex A9 part was Nvidia’s Tegra 3, so in theory a Cortex A53 quad-core could be as fast as a Tegra 3 clock-for-clock, but at 28nm we should see somewhat higher clocks, along with better graphics.

That’s not bad for $100 to $150 devices. LTE support is just the icing on the cake. Keep in mind that the Cortex A7 is ARM’s most efficient 32-bit core, hence we expect nothing less from the Cortex A53.

The Cortex A57 conundrum

Speaking to CNET’s Brooke Crothers, ARM executive vice president of corporate strategy Tom Lantzsch said the company was surprised by strong demand for 64-bit designs.

“Certainly, we’ve had big uptick in demand for mobile 64-bit products. We’ve seen this with our [Cortex] A53, a high-performance 64-bit mobile processor,” Lantzch told CNET.

He said ARM has been surprised by the pace of 64-bit adoption, with mobile parts coming from Qualcomm, MediaTek and Marvell. He said he hopes to see 64-bit phones by Christmas, although we suspect the first entry-level products will appear much sooner.

Lantzsch points out that even 32-bit code will run more efficiently on 64-bit ARMv8 parts. As software support improves, the performance gains will become more evident.

But where does this leave the Cortex A57? It is supposed to replace the Cortex A15, which had a few teething problems. Like the A15 it is a relatively big core. The A15 was simply too big and impractical on the 32nm node. On 28nm it’s better, but not perfect.  It is still a huge core and its market success has been limited.

As a result, it’s highly unlikely that we will see any 28nm Cortex A57 parts. Qualcomm’s upcoming Snapdragon 810 is the first consumer oriented A57 SoC. It is a 20nm design and it is coming later this year, just in time for Christmas as ARM puts it. However, although the Snapdragon 810 will be ready by the end of the year, the first phones based on the new chip are expected to ship in early 2015.

While we will be able to buy 64-bit Android (and possibly Windows Phone) devices before Christmas, most if not all of them will be based on the A53. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Consumers won’t have to spend $500 to get a 64-bit ARM device, so the user base could start growing long before high-end parts start shipping, thus forcing developers and Google to speed up 64-bit development.

If rumors are to be believed, Google is doing just that and it is not shying away from small 64-bit cores. The search giant is reportedly developing a $100 Nexus phone for emerging markets. It is said to be based on MediaTek’s MT6732 clocked at 1.5GHz. Sounds interesting, provided the rumour turns out to be true.

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